Midweek @ Musings: 2010 Year in Review

Inevitably, as the year comes to a close, I begin reflecting on my year of reading.  Then, of course, I simply must write a “year in review” post.  And so, here we are.  For the third year in a row, I’ve clocked in at 80 books, somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,500 pages, and an average rating of 3.6 out of 5.  Well, I’m nothing if not consistent!  My top 5 books each garnered a rare 5-star rating, except for the Zweig, which was the best of a long list of memorable 4.5-star reads (links will take you to my reviews):

And my year in review wouldn’t be the same without graphs!  My trusty reading spreadsheet produced four lovely graphs, and since they take up a lot of space I’ve put them in a nifty slideshow.  Click on the image below to open it in a new window:

Click here for a 4-graph slideshow!

As you can see, I usually read 5-7 books per month, except for July, which was unprecedented!  Very few books came in at less than 3 stars; I like to think that’s more about being selective than about being an “easy grader.”  My typical read was just over 300 pages, and in general my 2010 reading was more chunky than in 2009.  I also read far more books by women than men, surpassing 2009’s already-lopsided 66%/34% ratio.

But it’s not all about the numbers.  On a more qualitative note, below are a few “reading superlatives”  in a format borrowed from other bloggers, most notably Verity (as always, click on links to read my reviews):

  1. Best Book: Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain.  I was completely blown away by Brittain’s first-hand account of life at the front during World War I, and amazed at her ability to cope with such tremendous tragedy and grief.
  2. Worst Book: The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis.  I disliked this so much, it doesn’t even merit a few more words here.
  3. Most Disappointing Book: Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope.  Given my reading tastes, I should have enjoyed this book.  It still bugs me that I didn’t.  I found it too slow-moving and because it was a really long book, I just gave up.
  4. Most Surprising Book (in a good way):  When Everything Changed, by Gail Collins.  While I was sure I’d like this book, I didn’t expect to be recommending it to all and sundry for weeks after.  I even interrupted a ladies’ room conversation with two women I’d only just met, simply to tell them about this book!
  5. Favorite New (to me) Author: Winifred Holtby.  This is partly because Holtby was Vera Brittain’s dear friend, and partly because South Riding was so amazingly good.  Holtby is now on my “must read everything” list.
  6. Favorite Cover: this one’s a tie.  I can’t decide between The Lacuna and Lady Audley’s Secret.  The Kingsolver is so gorgeously floral.  I also love pre-Raphaelite art, and the portrait is true to the description of Lady Audley.
  7. Most Memorable Character: Undine Spragg, in Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country.   As I wrote in my review, “Beautiful, vapid, self-centered, ambitious, money-grubbing … need I say more?  She’s thoroughly despicable, but so well-drawn … ”  She was the driving force behind this book, and utterly fascinating.
  8. Most Beautifully Written Book: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson.  This is a “love it or hate it book,” and some have found it too slow for their taste.  I thought it was magnificent, and the pacing essential to delivering its profound messages.
  9. Book that had the Greatest Impact on me: Again, Testament of Youth.  This was one of the most moving and powerful books I’ve ever read, and one I will never forget.  It left so many thoughts and feelings rattling around in my head that I had to follow my review with a Remembrance Day post.
  10. Book I Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2010 to Read: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.  This is one of those “books about books” that everyone talks about.  I was afraid it would fall short of all the hype, but I was wrong.  It was simply delightful.

So that’s it — another year done & dusted.  Please leave a comment with your choices for any of the 10 “reading superlatives.” And I’ll be back in the coming days with 2011 resolutions and a little “blogiversary” celebration.

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22 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: 2010 Year in Review

    • Well Cushla, I have YOU to thank for my best book. So:
      THANK YOU!!

      And yes, you really must read South Riding. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 in any form of currency … just read it. 🙂

  1. Hehe – it is a good meme! I LOVE your statistics – I must try to keep better stas on the books that I read – next year I will be using my new Persephone Diary to record my reading which I am very excited about

    • The Persephone diary sounds lovely, Verity. I confess to having a spreadsheet so my stats build as the year progresses (which is kind of fun to watch, too, in a geeky way).

  2. I can but applaud your choices – well, except Gilead, which left me cold – and be bedazzled by your graphs. A wonderful year of reading, and I hope the coming years are as good.

  3. How delightful, Laura, that we share a few of these…South Riding is such a treasure, isn’t it. I have the Vera Brittain sitting here to be read Very Soon! I expect to love it as much as you did. Gilead was an utter delight, one of those jewels you find every now and then which expand your heart and your emotions. 84 Charing Cross is an old friend too. But the one I haven’t picked up, and must, is When Everything Changed.

    Happy reading for 2011! I, for one, will look forward to what you stumble onto and share with all of us.

    • Wow Tui, I didn’t realize how many of these we shared! That’s pretty neat. I’m looking forward to gleaning insights from your 2011 reading, too !

  4. It looks as though I need to avoid the books you rate most highly and stick to those you give 4 stars to 😉

    I hated Gilead and am half way through South Riding – which is just about managing to keep me reading.

    I love your graphs, but more importantly I love your blog, despite our reading differences. I hope 2011 is an even better reading year for you 🙂

    • Aha, Jackie! You may have just discovered an element of the elusive formula for figuring out which books we both will like! I’m sorry you’re not enjoying South Riding but at the same time, knowing something of your reading tastes, that doesn’t surprise me toooo much.

      I enjoy exchanging thoughts on books too, even though our points of view are often quite different! Happy New Year and I look forward to more book chat in 2011.

  5. Undine Spragg is, quite possibly, my most memorable character ever. 84 Charing Cross Road is an all-time favorite, and I simply must read Gilead in 2011. It’s been on my shelf for far too long. You’ve had an excellent year, Laura!

  6. I need to get out more because I’ve heard of only about four of the books you mentioned. I guess I’m in my own little bubble of books :), i.e. mostly crime fiction. I think I might need to break out some of those constraints; maybe in the new year.

    • Well that makes sense; I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. My “bubble” is classics & prizewinners. I s’pose every reader should attempt to read outside their normal zone a little bit every year.

  7. I love your year end reviews, Laura. I was really surprised at how many 4’s I gave this year. I think I’m too nice sometimes, but then when I think how few 5’s I gave, it gives me pause. I think I fall into the trap of thinking a 3 is not good when on my scale, it is exactly that–good. I need to try and keep that in mind more next year when I’m rating books.

    I haven’t read any of the books you mention but not for lack of wanting to. Here’s to another great year of reading. Happy New Year, Laura!

    • Thank you Wendy! I give very few 5s too (only 4 in 2010, out of 80 books). And yes, 3 is still good — that’s one reason I include a definition of my rating scale in the sidebar. 3 is “respectable,” where 5 is “unforgettable.” But I still have to remind myself because I expect to have at least a 4 experience every time I read a book!

  8. You are one of those bloggers I admire greatly, I hope to continue reading your blog in 2011. As for your stats, I wish I could figure out how spreadsheets work :\

    Happy 2011!

  9. Oooh, you’ve just reminded me that I need to add Winifred Holtby to my MRE pages. She has her own spreadsheet that she shares with Vera Brittain in my folders: such good stuff! Your steady enthusiasm for Edith Wharton has gone a long way towards my giving her a proper go in the near reading future; I’ve had a few false starts (with the exception of Ethan Frome) but I’m sure I’ll love her if I can just get the timing right! Hope you find lots of lovely reads in 2011.

    • @BIP, inspired by your “MRE” pages, I’m in the process of creating “Favorite Author” pages which I hope to launch next weekend. They won’t be as in-depth as yours (at least to start) but they will be a place to highlight my reviews of each author’s work.

      My daughter just spent her holiday reading Ethan Frome (a school assignment) and actually liked it (unusual for 15yos), so I hope I can count her as yet another Wharton convert. I have yet to convince daughter #1. But both recently discovered Margaret Atwood so that’s a good sign!

      Ah well, I digress. Happy New Year!

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